Drake Doremus has imagined a world where feelings and emotions are a criminal act and relationships are banned. For his latest film, Equals, Doremus has created a sci-fi universe starring Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult who are drawn together and have to deal with their feelings in this dystopian world. I recently caught up with Doremus to talk about working on the film that opens today.
AD: How did you approach the cinematography on this. How did you work with John Guleserian and describe your vision?
Drake Doremus: I’ve been working with John for thirteen years. One of the cool things about working together for so long is that you really push each other. You try to do different things. We always talk about pushing each other to take risks and experiment rather than do what we know. That’s really what this was. We really wanted to do that with this.
AD: Aside from the cinematography. The score is explosive. What conversations did you have about it?
DD: We did it in an abnormal way. When Nathan (Parker) was writing the script, I was sending him music and we were listening to that a lot while conceiving the story. I’ve also worked with Dustin for many years. Dustin O” Halloran and Sascha Ring were in Berlin together, so they were sending me music while we were shooting.
It was just this cool process. Captain Miller who’s an amazing music editor would look at it, give it to the Editor. It was such a great collaboration.
It wasn’t a tradition score where you complete the scene and a composer comes in. It was a really organic process where we let it evolve.
AD: Your set design was so impressive. You shot in Japan and Singapore, how did that enhance the futuristic look of the film?
DD: These locations are so unique. You had these sterile concrete structures mixed in with this beautiful green nature. So the combination of the two invokes a Zenlike harmonious world. I was trying to go for Fahrenheit 451 where it’s very timeless. It’s in the back drop and the love story takes center stage.
AD: Your casting was wonderful. How did Nicholas Hoult and Kristen Stewart get involved?
DD: I had met Nick four years ago, and we said, “Maybe one day we’ll work together.” So, we had that going. When the idea for Equals came about, I thought Nick was Silas, and it was sort of written for him. He was the guy from the beginning, so it was cool to have him in mind. There were only a few actresses, and I was super curious about Kristen Stewart. She has so much strength and also had this vulnerability to her. She was Nia. We got together, had wine and cheese. We had such a good time, and knew it was going to be a family and magical. We threw ourselves into it, and made it with love and support, and it was a wonderful working relationship.
AD: For one scene you had two hours of footage. How do you work with footage that long that becomes a two or three-minute scene?
DD: It’s so hard. For me I just watch everything carefully, I take my favorite moments and string them together, and slowly kill my babies. Slowly eliminating them and it’s so hard because there’s so much great stuff.
AD : The acting was incredible, and so much of it comes from their expressions, which you focus on. How did you do those scenes?
DD: It was a lot of getting them to think about what’s going on, but try to hide it. It’s really a movie about subtext. It’s about people who think and feel so many things that they can’t actually express on the surface. So, it was fascinating to attack that as subtly as possible and try to get performances that are barely there. You have to watch it carefully to gather all the information.
AD: How did you come up with the SOS Syndrome?
DD: That’s all Nathan. He came up with this idea that feeling is a disease, it’s so clever, especially when you think about where we are today as a society and technology.
AD: For you, this was a different film. Was this something you’d always wanted to do and explore the world of Sci-fi?
DD: I wouldn’t consider myself a sci-fi geek, but I’m a huge admirer of the genre. So, for me, it was an opportunity to try something different and jump out of my comfort zone and to learn something new. The backdrop of the genre forced me to try something different.
AD: How hard was the bathroom scene for you to shoot?
DD: It was easy. By that point, we had filmed it late. The characters and actors were ready, so we opened the floodgates and let the camera roll.
AD: What would it be like to live in a world without love?
DD: It would be a world not worth living in. It’s the only thing. [laughs].
AD: There’s been a lack of love stories, and then you come along with this. It’s been so much fun talking to you.